News Release

Obama’s Doctor, Others: Not Doing Single Payer a “Terrible Mistake”

At a news conference at the National Press Club today, David Scheiner, who was Obama’s personal physician for 22 years, said he would not support a proposal currently working its way through Congress: “If we don’t go the route of single payer, we’re making a terrible mistake.”

Asked if he has spoken to the president, Scheiner indicated he was disinvited from a recent forum that featured Obama. “I would give up my eyeteeth to speak to him. Perhaps he can invite his old doctor to the White House for a drink of water.”

Speaking on the anniversary of Medicare’s enactment 44 years ago, Scheiner stated that there is a great deal of disinformation about healthcare reform. He particularly focused on “this myth that the government would get between a doctor and patient. Medicare never gets between me and my patients. What does get in the way is the private insurance companies.” Read Scheiner’s full statement here.

Joining Scheiner was Sidney Wolfe, MD, acting president of Public Citizen and director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. Wolfe indicated that Obama’s stated goals of universal coverage and budget neutrality can only be achieved with a single-payer model: “The private insurance industry can’t exist in a program that is universal and cost neutral.” Wolfe called the current proposal a “false promise” that “is no longer a bill for national health insurance,” adding that “we are against Obamacare because it is a disaster for the millions left out.”

Said Wolfe: “We should be celebrating the 44th anniversary of Medicare by finally passing legislation that would truly result in everybody in, nobody out, instead of seriously considering legislation that guarantees that millions still will be left out just so the private health insurance industry can stay in. A single-payer system, eliminating the private health insurance industry, with the resultant $400 billion annual savings — that’s $4 trillion over ten years — is the only realistic way for everybody to be in.”

Also speaking at the news conference was Dr. Margaret Flowers, a pediatrician who is congressional fellow with Physicians for a National Health Program, which just released a letter signed by over 3,500 doctors, including Scheiner. The letter states: “Mr. President, you once embraced a single-payer reform that would threaten private insurers, and foresaw its passage if Democrats regained control of the House, the Senate and the White House. These conditions have been met. Yet now Democrats propose diverting additional billions to private insurers by requiring middle class Americans to purchase defective policies from these firms — policies with so many gaps and loopholes that they currently leave millions of our insured patients vulnerable to financial ruin.

“Moreover, a ‘public plan option’ would do little to mitigate the damage of a reform that perpetuates private insurers’ dominant role. Even a robust public option would forego 90 percent of the bureaucratic savings achievable under single payer. And a kinder, gentler public option would quickly fail in a health care marketplace where competition involves a race to the bottom, not the top, where insurers compete by NOT paying for care. But HHS Secretary Sebelius has made clear that any public option will be far worse than that, specifically crafted to prevent it from evolving to a single payer. This kind of public option would amount to a government-run clone of private insurance, reproducing the worst features of private plans.”

Video of the news conference will be posted at Single Payer Action.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167